The naked and the nude

Undressing the false dichotomy

While certain naked bodies are considered high art, others are considered profane. Philippa Levine argues that imperialism, class distinctions, and the professionalization of science are the forces that have shaped the dubious distinction between the nude and the naked.


Imagine walking down your local high street with no clothes on. In reality, it’s actually quite hard to picture because so few of us would ever contemplate taking such an action. But if you did, you would endure stares and catcalls, as well as stand a pretty good chance of being arrested for public nudity or for disturbing the peace. Yet at the same time naked bodies are everywhere in contemporary society: near-nakedness is ubiquitous in modern advertising, there are several television programs premised on nakedness, and we continue to insist that to be naked is to be natural. Yet this apparent state of nature has always been fraught with significance: legal battles have been fought over

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